First they came for the RouteMaster, and I did not speak out, because I was not a RouteMaster. And now, the Evening Standard scare headline says it all: BLACK CABS UNDER THREAT.
Well, that headline would "say it all" if "it all" meant "an utterly overblown piece of scare-mongering crapola of the standard we have come to expect from the Standard".
The story is this: Transport for London have gone insane. They have locked themselves inside their headquarters with 250 virgins, several high-velocity rifles, a Bible and lots of canned food. To appease the demands of the Dark Lord they worship, every cab driver must report with their vehicle to TfL so the driver can be neutered and the vehicle can be melted down and turned into crude coinage bearing the face of Ken Livingstone. This will happen tomorrow.
Now that story would have been "Black Cabs Under Threat". The story the standard actually reports is rather tamer:
"Transport chiefs are expected to decide next week whether to relax the rules on which vehicles can be licensed in the capital.
"It could mean the classic "hackney carriage" design will make way for six-seater people carriers."
Note the deliberate fluffing of the second sentence: "It could mean ... the design will make way for six-seater people carriers." So, equally it could mean the design won't make way for six-seater people carriers. But the Standard wouldn't say that, would it? Not scary enough. Unlike the Daily Mail's sister title to twist the truth using weasel words to exaggerate and distort, isn't it?
Who wrote this story, anyway? Oh, Andrew Gilligan. Where has Londonist heard that name before? Anyway, Gilligan uses most of the rest of the piece to provide free advertising for the people-carrier company that wants to usurp the taxi.
Anyway, this review may loosen the rules on what vehicles are allowed to be licensed as cabs, apparently paving the way for the sedate fleet of taxis to be replaced by something resembling the Wacky Races, with a menagerie of outlandish and inappropriate vehicles taking to the streets in the name of taking our fares. Beach buggies, pogo sticks, space hoppers and penny-farthings will soon be the prime forms of post-pub homewards travel, it seems.
Of course, that won't happen, more's the pity. If the review decides to relax the rules, we may see a few more six-seat people-carriers on the streets. But the Black Cab will not disappear. TfL is not delivering the final verdict, as was the case with the poor old RouteMaster. The decision will be down to individual cabbies, and cabbies are not know for their tear-it-down-and-start-again radicalism.
So take what you read in the Standard with a pinch of salt, folks, and as Nick Ross tells us: Don't have nightmares.
UPDATE: It may have included scaremongering, petty conservatism and blinkered national pride, but the original report left out a critical element from the Standard's usual intoxicating brew: needless xenophobia. Fear not! Later editions corrected this, changing the opening line of the story to include the fact that the replacement people-carriers are - horrors - French-built.